Hot Sun, but oh what fun! Key West 7.2.22 – 7.9.22

I tend to start off my trip reports with some sort of worry or concern, but this was one of the first times the weather forecast was actually going to be perfect. Yes it was going to be hot, but unlike last year with Tropical Storm Elsa, there was nothing on the horizon. So with a big sigh of relief I was all geared up to return for our 27th, yes you heard me 27th time to Key West, my happy place!

My husband and I were also really excited that friends of ours were going to be in Key West the same time as us. We were looking forward to see them and of course a bunch of locals we have met along the way that have become great friends as well.

Arrival Day  7/2/22

Usually our flights are around 9-9:30am in the morning, but United changed our flight to 11:00am. I was a bit annoyed because I knew if we had any delays or whatnot most of the day was going to be shot. Plus with the recent flight cancellations there was a bit of uncertainty. Thankfully our flight was still scheduled to be on time. Our car service picked us up around 8:00 am (that was the one positive with the later flight was that we were able to sleep in a little). Once we were dropped off at the United Terminal C we were a bit surprised. The airport wasn’t that bad. We were flying out of Newark Liberty International Airport mind you, but there wasn’t much of any lines. We still have the TSA Pre and the Clear Pass, so again like last time going through security took just a few minutes. 

Once we got through security we saw a sign that the United Club Lounge was closed. All well, so we just walked down towards our gate and found a place to have breakfast. It turned out not to be a bad breakfast at all, actually quite good. The only frustrating part was ordering. You had to scan the QR code and their app to order food. It did pass the time nicely however. Soon it was time to get to our gate. 

Since I have the United Card I was able to upgrade our tickets to first. The plane is very small so it really doesn’t pay for first class, but it is nice to be first on and first off. Our boarding group was called and we got settled in our seats. While we were watching all the people board the plane we notice music was playing over the intercom. It was so nice and festive. You can see the people walking on the plane also noticed and it gave them a smile. There was even a lady who came on the plane with a full grown dog. He didn’t look like a service dog or anything but they were seated right behind us. He was a beautiful dog and I thought to myself this is good luck. 

We didn’t have to wait too long in line before our plane took off. The flight was pretty calm for the most part. It was about the usual 2 and 1/2 hours when I started to see the Keys down below. 

We landed a little pass 2:00pm so it wasn’t too bad. Then we noticed there were about 5 other planes on the tarmac. Another flight had passengers unloading at the same time and we both thought there may be an issue with getting a taxi.

When we made it outside to the taxi line, there was no line and we were the only ones out there. We were able to get the first taxi that was waiting in line. The driver was super friendly and told us how she is having a website done so people can go on it and find info about Key West and such. Her name was Jennifer and she told us if we ever needed another ride, even though we tend to walk everywhere, to give her a call. So my husband took down her number.

As we were passing Smather’s Beach I started to notice this horrid stench. It was awful and I knew what it was, the sargassum. It was super potent. As we made our way farther from the beach, the smell went away. Note to self, I would never want to stay on that side of the island during the hot summer months. Soon I could see the yellow brick wall that surrounds the property of the Gardens Hotel along Simonton which always gets me super excited. And yes once again we were staying at the Gardens Hotel.

Jennifer pulled the taxi up and we grabbed our things. We thanked her and told her we would definitely give her a call if we needed a ride somewhere.

We walked up the stairs and saw that no one was checking in. So we both walked in and dropped our luggage down. It was newer lady working the front desk. As a result she didn’t realize how many times we had stayed at the Gardens. So she asked us if we needed any help with reservations, bike rentals, etc. It was very nice, but I just wanted to check in, so I could unpack our things and take off my sneakers and put on my flip flops.

After several minutes she handed us our keys. It was around 2:30pm so our room was ready which I expected. We rolled our luggage through the courtyard. (Ironically I love the sound of our luggage rolling towards our room, but despise the sound when we are rolling our luggage to leave.) 

As soon as we neared the bar we saw a familiar face. It was Phil! We were so happy to see him and he as well. We each gave him a hug and sat down for a cold beverage before unpacking our things. It was so good to be back I thought. No matter how many times we return , it never gets old.

We both finished our drinks and brought our luggage up to our room. Once everything in our room was in order I looked at my watch and it was 3:30pm. I had a feeling we wouldn’t make it, but I was hoping to see our friend Zack Seemiller at Rick’s but he was only there until four. I was a bit disappointed but then my husband got a message from our friends Brent and Julie. They just arrived the day before us and were renting a house on Fleming. They had dinner reservations that evening but wanted to stop by and say hello.

So my husband and I sat back at the bar at the Gardens. We talked to Phil for a couple minutes before I saw Brent and Julie walk in. It was so nice to see them again. We also had dinner reservations, at Blue Heaven. We couldn’t talk for too long but we made plans to meet up at the Smokin’ Tuna after dinner. Once they left we went back to our room to get ready for Blue Heaven.

Usually our first steps on to Duval is making a right hand turn, but this time we made a left hand turn down towards Petronia. The sun was still quite hot even though it was nearing 6:00pm. We walked in and it didn’t appear to be too crowded. Then again many tables had been removed during COVID.

The hostess seated us to the area on the right side of the bar. We had never sat on that side before, but it was a pleasant change. There were just a few tables and a lovely display on the stage behind us of roosters done by a local artist (who was sitting on stage as well). 

I was a little apprehensive as to how the service was going to be since we were seated away from all the other tables. However our server was excellent. He immediately came over to tell us the specials and take our drink order.  A couple specials were tuna poke as an appetizer and black grouper for an entree. I wound up ordering both. My husband decided to go with the sea scallop appetizer, which was recommended by our friend Julie. Then for his main meal, no surprise, my husband ordered the burger. 

It didn’t take long before our appetizers arrived. My tuna poke was delicious and fresh. I was curious to try the sea scallops and when I did I knew why our friend was raving about them. The sauce was delicious. Then not before long our entrees came out. Of course my husband enjoyed his burger and I really thought the black grouper was cooked perfectly. The sauce that accompanied it paired really well. You can read my review here

We were both too full to order a slice of their key lime by so we asked for the check. It was a perfect time to walk off our meals and head down to the Tuna. 

When we walked in it wasn’t too busy and saw there were a few tables in front of the stage that were open. I asked if we could sit at the tables even though we weren’t ordering any food and the server said it wasn’t a problem – thank goodness because I cannot stand the seats they have around the bar. They are very unstable and saw someone fall off one the chairs during our last visit and again this visit. 

Caffeine Carl and the Buzz were playing that evening with Just George being the frontman that night. The band came on around 9:00pm and we  were having a great time. The drinks were flowing and we enjoying the music. I figured that tonight was the night to have fun since I was planning on taking it easy the following day since I was running in the Rotary Club July 4th 5K on Monday.

You can check out the video here:

Eventually we pried ourselves out of our seats and said goodbye to the band. Since Brent and Julie’s house was towards the Gardens we walked down Duval together. When we got to their street Fleming we said our goodbyes and would get in touch the following day. 

We made it back to the Gardens and I was definitely ready to turn in after the travel day and what not, and that’s what we did.

Sunday Funday 7/3/22

Since neither my husband or myself pulled down the shades in our room the sun woke us both up. Thankfully the sun rises later in Key West then here in NJ. We both freshened up and were ready to face our first full day in Key West. As soon as you walked outside you could feel the heat instantly. It was hot, but that’s what you expect when you to Key West in July. Nevertheless the sun was shining and it was a beautiful morning.

We did our usual short cut walk to Cuban Coffee Queen to grab a couple of cuban americans. When we got to Cuban Coffee Queen, apparently everyone else had the same idea. The line was ridiculous. It would take a long time before we would have coffee in our hands and I was in much need of it that morning. 

We walked back onto the street and noticed the this place called the Cafe. We had never eaten there before, but I have read great things about it online. Since it was right there we figured let’s walk in. When we walked in there were a few tables and also a counter / bar. We opted for the counter. The server, assuming maybe one of the owners gave us a couple menus while we ordered coffee. 

Looking over the menu, I noticed there were many intriguing options to choose from. I remember reading too about their salmon benedict so that is what I decided to go with. My husband ordered the green goddess omelet. It sounded really good to me, but due to the fact it had pesto served on top, I was worried the garlic would be repeating on me all day. 

While we were waiting for our breakfast, I noticed more and more people walk in. We got there just in time. It took a little bit of time but we weren’t in a rush, we were in Key West. When our server brought out our breakfasts you could immediately smell the garlic. It smelled great but I was glad I ordered the benedict. While we were eating our breakfast my husband got a text from Julie inviting us over to their house. I thought what a perfect day to do so. Sundays tend to be a quieter day in Key West as far as entertainment so I was so excited to check out their house.

Both our meals were piping hot and delicious. It was a nice way to start our day. You can read my review here

After breakfast we walked down Duval to the liquor store to grab a few Miller Lites to bring over. Again, I kept thinking about the race the next day and if I was really going to do it. (I do run 4 miles 5 days a week so I was up for the task, but I was mostly concerned about the heat.)

We walked back to the Gardens to grab a bag and some towels that the hotel provides. It wasn’t a very far walk on to Fleming and to the house. We knocked on the door and Julie welcomed us in. She gave us a tour of the house and it was just so pretty.

We walked out to the back where there was a beautiful pool and jacuzzi. There was also a large covered area for a few chairs and tables. We sat down and talked for a little bit.

It was getting hot however, and that pool was looking better and better.

Everyone else felt the same way and we all jumped in the pool. It was so refreshing and a great time. We wound up staying there for most of the afternoon. It was eventually time for us to make our way back to the Gardens, but Brent offered to drop us off since they had to run out to Publix to get a few things. Thank goodness too because it would have been a very hot walk back.

Once they dropped us off we were planning on freshening up for dinner, but we decided to say hi to Alan who is the other bartender that works at the Gardens. He is originally from Cape May so we always wind up talking about New Jersey, the tomatoes and corn in the summer, etc. Then we saw the General Manager of the Gardens, Jim. He always takes care of us during our stay and we always appreciate it.

Then I was starting to think about the 5K the next morning and still wanted to give it a try. When I signed up they said if you sign up as a runner you can run and walk if you want, so I figured why not? The race started at 7:30am so I knew we would need a taxi to pick us up around 6:45am in the morning. The race was at White Street Pier which is about a 1.5 mile walk from the Gardens. The last thing I wanted to do was to walk that distance before racing.

My husband gave our taxi driver Jennifer who picked us up at the airport a call.  Unfortunately her shift didn’t start until 7 but she said she would send another driver to pick us up. My husband thanked her and we were all set. I was actually going to do this 5K!

At this point my husband and I were pretty hungry. I wanted to be sure to eat something very substantial and nothing too light. Then we remembered during our last trip a friend of ours, Ramsey recommended Clemente’s for pizza. (Which used to be food truck but the owner was able to get a small store front to make it a restaurant.)

Clemente’s is also on Fleming so we basically walked back the same way we did to see Brent and Julie. We walked in and the place is small. It was bustling but luckily two people that were seated at the bar were leaving. 

We grabbed the two last available seats before ordering a mushroom pizza. I love mushrooms. I did order a glass of wine and my husband ordered a beer. It felt like forever to get our order because I was so hungry, but it really didn’t take that long. When our pizza came out, we both started digging in. It was delicious, so delicious there were no leftovers.

When we were done with the pizza we thought it would be for the best to have an early night since we both had to get up early. We walked back to the Gardens and Alan was still there. We each ordered a nightcap. I knew I had to get some sleep so I headed back up to the room while my husband finished his drink.

Monday – July 4th! 5K, Pie Eating Contest, Hogs Breath, Jolly Rover II  7/4/22

6:15am came very quickly that morning. My husband was the first to get up and then I pulled myself out of bed. I felt pretty good overall but I was a bit tired. When I shipped down our toiletries earlier that week I included a couple cans of this energy drink soda with ginseng. I didn’t want to have any coffee until after the 5K so I grabbed one to take with me. It was still dark out as we walked to the front of the Gardens.

My husband tried opening the front gate but it was stuck. A little sense of both panic and relief came to mind. Maybe I won’t do the race and can’t say that I did want to but we couldn’t get out of the hotel? Then we remembered that there is another gate along Simonton. We walked over to the other side and the gate opened up when we walked up to it. 

We had to run around the corner where the taxi was waiting. He was a very friendly fellow playing Radio Margaritaville in his taxi. I was starting to excited that I was about to run my first ever 5K.

Our taxi driver dropped us off at White Street Pier (which has been recently renamed as Edward B. Knight Pier), where you could see the tents set up for the race. My husband  took town the driver’s info so we could give him a call after. He wished me luck and drove off. As we neared the pier the smell of the sargassum was awful. 

I walked up to the tent to sign in. I already registered online ahead of time so it was just a matter of a couple seconds before the young lady handed me my official number to wear. Surprisingly it didn’t feel too hot yet. There was a little cloud cover and the sun was starting to rise.

It was only 7:00am at that point and thought to myself, we got here way too early.

Eventually they called all the runners up to line up and told all the walkers to start in the back. My husband wished me luck as I shuffled my way into the mix of all the other people. 

Before we started, they wound up playing the star spangled banner. Ironically one of the runners behind me, must have been a local, was all decked out, along with his dog, with the stars and strips and he had a large flag. So everyone turned and faced him as the national anthem played. I laughed to myself and thought only in Key West!

Then the signal to start the race was given and we were off. At first it was a bit strange running while surrounded by people, but not before long everyone started to separate. The faster runners obviously went ahead and the slower ones went behind. I was probably somewhere in the middle. 

As I was running I was looking up at the palm trees and couldn’t believe I was actually doing it. We went about a mile and a half down to Smather’s Beach. Along the way, as I mentioned earlier, the smell of the sargassum was so strong. At the half way point everyone turned around and we ran back towards White Street Pier. I did have to take a couple breaths and walk a little after about 2 miles. Once I got my composure back I started running again. Finally I could see the finish line and I wasn’t about to walk again.

I saw my husband cheering me on as I came to the end. I did it!! My first ever 5K in my happy place!! I was so happy and relieved that it was all over at the same time. Ever since I signed up for a couple of weeks prior, that was all I was thinking about. Can I do it? Should I do it? Overall it wasn’t that bad. Yes it was warm but not too hot. The worse part was the smell of the sargassum.

At the end of the race they handed out a little metal to wear along with a towel and bottle water. They even had bud light and michalob ultra if that is what you fancied. I was all about the water. My husband called the taxi while I was cooling off. It wasn’t before long that he arrived. He congratulated me as he drove us back to the Gardens.

It was only around 8:30am and I thought it would be a perfect time to go grab some coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen before freshening up. As we were walking by the Gardens we saw Phil the bartender taking out the trash. At first he didn’t see my run number on my shirt and thought I didn’t make the run, but once he saw that he was so happy that I did it.

We walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen and there was no line. It was so nice to walk right up and get a cup of coffee right away. The coffee never tasted so good. We walked back to the Gardens to take a much needed shower. While we were getting ready we were trying to think of a place to eat for breakfast. My husband didn’t want a huge breakfast because he wanted to partake in the Key Lime Pie Eating Contest that was happening later that day at the Southhernmost Beach Cafe.

We thought about going to the White Tarpon so we wound up walking down towards the Bight. I was still on my high that I did the 5K so I didn’t mind where we went. As we were walking I noticed that it was getting a bit cloudy. We made it to the White Tarpon and when we looked in, it was closed. We were both so disappointed. I guess they were closed for the July 4th holiday. 

My husband suggest Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe for breakfast. We hadn’t eaten there in a while and I remembered that their breakfasts are surprisingly good. We walked on over to place our order. I grabbed a table near the koi pond. And I grabbed it just in time. As soon as we sat down it started to downpour. Once we were served our breakfast the rain began to dissipate. I had a couple of eggs with potatoes and toast. My husband just had a few eggs and one slice of toast. You can read my review here

Once we were finished we walked back down to the Gardens to relax for a little while. The pie eating contest wasn’t until 1:30pm but you could register at 12:30pm. We figured we would walk down towards the Sourthernmost around noon. 

Eventually it became that time to make the walk down. It was getting quite hot and steamy again. We walked down Simonton almost to the end before crossing on over to Duval. We got a message from Julie saying that Brent and herself were having lunch at the Seaside Cafe at the Mansion. We had never been there and since we had time to spare we thought let’s meet them there.

We walked down and they were seated right near the water. Thankfully there was no smell of sargassum there. It was such a nice setting. They were waiting for the lobster pizza they ordered, which the place is known for. The Southernmost Beach Cafe was right next door so it was very convenient. I ordered a celebratory cocktail for myself while we waited. 

It was just about 12:30pm so we walked over to the cafe.

We walked around the restaurant where the pie eating contest was all set up. It looked kind of funny, the long table with all the chairs. I kept picturing the scene from Stand By Me as we walked by. There was one gentlemen signing in before my husband and he was next in line. When my husband went to sign up, they said that the last person just filled up the last spot. My husband was devastated. They took down his phone number and said that they would give him a call by 1:00pm if someone was a no show.

So we walked back to see Brent and Julie. They were finishing up their lunch and thety were getting ready to leave. Then Julie suggested we grab a table on the porch at the Mansion and have a couple beverages while we waited for the call. 

Ironically there was a paper on the table that had my ad I did for the Gardens Hotel on it and it made me happy.

Well unfortunately the call never came and my husband wasn’t able to participate in the contest. Once we were done with our drinks I wanted to head up to Hogs Breath to finally see Zack Seemiller play. Brent and Julie had a couple of errands to run, but they walked with us for a little while before we made our separate ways. It was a long hot walk all the way to the other side of the island.

We finally made it to Hogs Breath. Unfortunately the seats that we usually sit in were taken. Luckily the seats at the raw bar area were open. And it turned out to be better because I didn’t have to turn around to watch Zack play. He gave us a hello before he started his next set. It was great to see him again. Plus I he had one of his new banners on display that I sent down to him for his birthday.

While we were watching Zack, our friends Wayne and Karen stopped by. They initially went to the pie eating contest expecting to see my husband compete. We told them how the contest filled up just before he could register. They told us that the guy that won the contest finished his pie in just over a minute. The contest wasn’t about how many pies you could eat, but how fast you could eat one. I don’t think my husband had a chance, but if the opportunity comes around again, I am sure he’ll be the first in line to register. 

I was glad that we were able to run into Wayne and Karen before they were leaving town. We chatted until the end of Zack’s show. When Zack’s show was over I had to get my usual photo with him of course. No trip would be complete without the photo!

It was nearing time that we had to go back to the Gardens to get ready for the Jolly Rover II that Julie booked for us a few months ago. We said our goodbyes to everyone and walked down Duval to the hotel. I was actually getting tired from all the walking. I think my Fitbit was up to 7 or 8 miles at that point. 

I wound up not changing because I figured it was going to be hot on the boat, especially waiting until we would set sail. My husband changed and we made our way towards the Bight once again. First though, we had to stop to grab some white wine for the boat and a few slices of pizza to fuel us up. 

The Jolly Rover II is a schooner but it is bring your own, which I thought was fine. You can bring what you prefer to drink and if you want to bring food as well. Plus makes it a very reasonable sail.

We made it to the Bight and saw all the people waiting to go out on all the other boats that evening to see the Fireworks. I was getting pretty excited because it had been several years since we saw the Fireworks from a boat. Soon Brent and Julie showed up and we were the first in line to get on the Jolly Rover II.

Being that we were the first to get on the boat I wasn’t sure where to sit. I wound up picking the side that was not in the sun and the seats towards the front of the boat. It actually was a great spot because the area where we sat only was able to seat one other person. The boat was fully booked and probably held around 30 people. Once everyone was on board, the captain went through all the safety tips and also mentioned there were two lavatories on the boat down below.

The sun was starting to get lower in the sky as we set sail for the night. It was so nice to be back on the water. The side of the boat where I picked our seats wound up being the perfect side. We were able to watch the sunset from our side without having to turn around. It was a beautiful sunset to see.

Then it came time to see the fireworks. Last year we weren’t able to see the fireworks so again I was excited to see them. The fireworks in Key West never disappoint and that night they were just as good as I remembered. They probably went off for about 20 minutes or so. It was so much fun to see. I tried to take pictures but it was difficult to get a good shot.

Eventually it was time to sail back. Brent and Julie wound up going to the Tuna to see a band called the Glass Cats. Between the 5K and the long day I was done. We thanked them for a great time on the boat and went our separate ways. We made it back to the Gardens and I looked down at my FitBit and couldn’t believe how many miles I walked – between the 5K and walking all around the island. As soon as I saw that, I was done for the night.

Tuesday – The Smokin’ Tuna and Red Shoe Island Bistro  7/5/22

After a good night sleep I was ready to face the day. (I think the Gardens replaced the mattresses in the rooms. They are super comfortable.) We both freshened up and walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen to grab some coffee. Luckily the line wasn’t that bad so we didn’t have to wait too long  before making our way down to Breakfast Club Too to meet Zack and his son Kai for breakfast. 

When we walked in there was no question we preferred to sit inside in the air conditioning. I like sitting outside but it was just too hot. We sat down and then Zack and Kai showed up. We had to order off our phones using the QR code on the table. They still don’t have menus since before COVID. It was a nice breakfast just talking and catching up since the last time we saw them a few months ago. When we were done with breakfast we thanked Zack and Kai and contemplated our next move. 

It was already later in the morning and nearing noon so we figured we hadn’t been to the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar yet and it was a nice day to go there and take in the views of the water. 

We walked in and sat at the bar. A really nice bartender named Candice was working. We knew her from several visits ago as well and she recognized us. We talked for a bit before more people began to show up. Time seemed to be moving slowly that day and I wasn’t complaining. 

Then it was about that time to head on over to the Smokin’ Tuna to see Caffeine Carl and Zack play. We thanked Candice for the drinks and walked back down to Duval. We were trying to pick the shadier side of the street but there was no such luck. It was hot. 

We walked around the back way past Captain Tony’s to the Tuna. 

Carl and Zack were already on stage as we waved hello. The place was practically empty so I was able to maneuver a couple of seats from the tables to use at the bar. (Again I do not like the bar seats there, they scare me.) Phil the bartender was tending bar and he recognized us too. We ordered a couple of beers and settled in for the afternoon watching Carl and Zack. I always enjoy the band play, but for some reason I really like seeing just Carl and Zack play together. You can see a video here

Phil was enjoying himself as well and gave us a round of shots.

While we were watching them, a delightful couple came up to me asking if I was Susannj? I told them I sure was and they complimented me on my blog. It was really so nice to hear. They were visiting from Ohio and I believe their names were Maryland and Mark. I thanked them for all the kind words.

When Carl and Zack were done we said our goodbyes.

We wanted to get back to the Gardens to freshen up again for dinner. This was the only other night I made dinner reservations for us. I knew that July tends to be quieter so I didn’t feel the need to make reservations throughout our stay. After the 4th, it definitely quieted down in Key West. So for that evening we were going to go to the Red Shoe Island Bistro. I really like the place and it is located conveniently near the Gardens. Initially I had reservations for the two of us, but we asked Brent and Julie if they would like to join us so I was able to change it to the four of us.

Once we were freshened up we sat at the Gardens bar where we were going to meet up with Brent and Julie. I ordered a nice cold glass of white wine. While we were sitting at the bar we started to chat with a few of the other guests. And once again someone came up to me that was staying there asked if I was Susannj. They didn’t recognize me at first, but my husband. It was kind of funny.

We also began talking to a nice couple from NY. Lynn and her family were staying at the Gardens for a week with their older children. (The Gardens doesn’t allow children under the age of 16). They were really nice people and they also talked about how much they love Key West and the Gardens Hotel like us. That’s why I love just sitting at the bar at the Gardens. You wind up meeting such wonderful people. That’s how we wound up meeting Julie last October. We were just sitting at the bar talking. And now we have become friends.

Then Brent and Julie showed up. We had time for them to have a beverage before walking down to the Red Shoe Island Bistro. Our reservations were for 6:00pm. While we were talking I looked at my FitBit and saw it was almost 6:00pm. Time I guess got away from us with great conversation between Brent and Julie and the other guests. 

We managed to get to the restaurant fairly quickly so we were only a couple minutes late. The owner recognized us since this was our fifth time dining there since they first opened a few years ago. He sat us down at a very nice corner table. He told us the specials and I thought that the tilefish special sounded good. I do love their yellowtail snapper but I wanted to try something different. 

For appetizers everyone ordered the caesar salad but I went out on a limb and ordered the crabmeat stuffed avocados. It seemed like a strange combination but it was delicious. Everyone enjoyed their caesar salads as well. Julie ordered the sea scallops for dinner (which I was debating whether to get it myself but I have to be in the mood for scallops). Brent and my husband both opted for the yellowtail snapper. When my tilefish was served it looked delicious. 

I couldn’t wait to dig in, but for some reason my tilefish was a bit lackluster. I have ordered tilefish in the past and the same reaction happened. I guess I am just not much of a fan of tilefish. The sauce was delicious and also the shrimp that accompanied the fish were tasty. Of course everyone else was raving about their food. I did taste the sauce that came with the scallops and I was kicking myself for not ordering it. You can read my review here

Nevertheless it was a nice dinner. We were all too full to have dessert so we walked back to the Gardens. As we were walking by we passed Ramshead where Zack was playing. I wanted to stop in, but when we did he just finished his show. So it was a quick hello before he left. Since we were already there we wound up getting a couple seats at the bar for an after dinner (not needed) drink. We wound up talking for a while. It was so long that we wound up closing the place. We were the only ones left and got the signal that we should leave.

We walked back to the Gardens up to our balcony/porch. We chatted outside our room for a bit but realized we may be getting a bit loud for the other guests who were staying there. Plus it was also getting kind of late. So we said good night and headed inside our room while Brent and Julie walked back to their house. 

Wednesday – Bagatelle, Willie Ts, Martins and the Smokin’ Tuna 7/6/22

Since we were up kind of late the night before, I had no intent to get up before 9:00am. When we eventually woke up we both freshened up and walked down to our usual first stop, Cuban Coffee Queen. Surprisingly there wasn’t a line. Maybe because we were a lot later then the normal breakfast rush, Once we had our coffee in hand we walked down Duval. We wanted to try the White Tarpon again. It was already quite hot out so we tried to find the side of the street with more shade. 

When we got down to the Bight the same thing happened. The White Tarpon was closed. I am not sure if they stopped serving breakfast or maybe not offering it during the slower season. I was really craving that B.L.T. sandwich that I had during our last visit. 

All well.  Where to next? We both contemplated in our minds. Then my husband suggested Bagatelle. It isn’t too far of a walk so that’s where wound up. When we walked in we were seated on the porch. The restaurant wasn’t crowded at all. For breakfast I wasn’t in the mood for eggs so I ordered the bagel with smoked salmon. It is usually my go to breakfast if I don’t feel like eggs. My husband had the regular eggs benedict. While we were waiting for our orders we watched all the people walk by and the occasional conch train. It really is a great spot to people watch. Then our meals came out. Everything was delicious as to be expected at Bagatelle. (For the longest time I thought it was Bagatelle’s.) You can read my review here

After we were done with our breakfast we walked on over to Hogs Breath, I wanted to get a few shirts there, a few for myself and one for my sister. Since it was right across the street I thought that it was a perfect opportunity to check out the store. I find that they a nice variety of shirts and designs to choose from.

I wound up purchasing too many shirts for myself, but can you ever have too many? Our next stop was the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon. The sun was beating down and we needed a place to get out of the sun. We walked in and we grabbed a couple seats at the bar. I also made sure to drink plenty if water. It was nice to sit back and watch the boats and jet skis go by. 

Time seemed to be speeding up a little and then I realized our trip was already half way over. It felt like we were there for a while but then at the same time when I thought about flying home that Saturday it felt too soon.

I wanted to see Zack at Willie T’s that afternoon, so we wound up walking back to the Gardens to regroup for a little. I also wanted to drop off my bag of shirts. I didn’t want to wind up leaving the bag somewhere. When we walked in to the Gardens, Phil was bartending. The place was hopping. People were in the pool and around the bar. We walked by hoping to grab a seat but there wasn’t any available.

We walked up to our room cooled off  in the air conditioning and downed more water. We sat back on our porch and noticed the voices at the bar got quieter. I walked down the stairs and saw a few seats had opened up.  I told my husband so we sat down and started talking to Phil and the other guests at the bar. Lynn and her family (from NY) were there as well and mentioned to us how they were renewing their vows the following day at the Gardens and if we were around we were welcome to join them. I thought that was really nice.

It was getting later in the afternoon and told my husband that I wanted to go Willie T’s before it gets too late and miss Zack’s show. I know it was a super hot day and my husband wasn’t exactly eager to go there sit in the sweltering sun. Luckily when we got there I found a table in the shade right next to a fan. It was perfect. We sat down and enjoyed listening to Zack for a bit.

My husband wanted to hit the happy hour at Martin’s so left a little bit before Zack’s show ended. We said our  goodbyes and mentioned we would try and stop at the Tuna later that night. We walked down to Martin’s and it was just about 5:30pm. Usually when we walk in, it is difficult to find a seat at the bar during happy hour, but not that night,.

We found two seats at the end of the bar and I ordered a glass of white wine and my husband had a martini. Then the freezy of ordering off the tapas menu began. We started off with the escargot, lamb chops, crab cakes, shrimp skewers, pork schnitzel and tuna. Everything came out at once and started with the escargot. It was delicious and garlicky. We made it through the rest and even ordered a second order of the escargot. 

And when we received the bill it was $76. That really isn’t bad at all and we were both full. You can read my review here

After our meal at Martin’s, walked back to the Gardens to relax for a bit. We heard from Brent and Julie that after their dinner at Latitude’s that evening they would meet us at the Tuna if we went. I really wanted to go so around 7:30 we walked back down Duval to the Tuna. 

It wasn’t too busy so we were able to sit at a table near the stage and not have to order any food. We ordered a couple of drinks while we were waiting for Carl and Zack and the band to set up. At this point we were both getting pretty tired. I wound up getting a second wind once the music started. I even wound up dancing with some local who needed someone to dance with.

Then I noticed my husband was getting tired and actually so was I. I checked my phone and Brent and Julie were still at Latitudes so we figured we would just head back to the Gardens. We waved goodbye to the band and walked back to Duval. There was taxi waiting right in front so my husband waved at him for a ride. It is a quick short walk back, but it was nice to jump into the cool taxi to take us back to the Gardens.

The taxi dropped us off and we were done for the night.

Thursday- La Te Da, Pool Day, and the Smokin’ Tuna 7/7/22

Once again we slept in again. We wound up grabbing coffee at the Gardens while we waited for each of us to get ready for the day. The coffee was very good and I was tempted to eat breakfast there. 

However, I wanted to go to La Te Da for breakfast. We had not been there yet during this trip and I was in the mood for their yogurt, granola fruit. When we were both ready we walked out on to Simonton. As we were walking the skies got darker. Then the drops of rain started to fall. We were nearing the front of the restaurant Lola’s where there is an awning. It was perfect timing because that is when the rain started to come down.

We had to wait it out for a few minutes. When the rain stopped it was even steamier than before. We made our way back onto Duval and down to La Te Da’s. We walked in and it was empty – perfect I thought. We were able to sit wherever we wanted. I choose the two seats at the bar along the side near the road.

The bartender gave us menus and chatted with us for a bit. Like Bagatelle, I enjoy La Te Da too for the people watching and of course the food is consistently very good. For breakfast I went for the yogurt with granola and fruit (no surprise) and my husband had the half order of the sausage and biscuits. I found that being it was so hot while we were there, I would eat less. I just wasn’t as hungry as I normally am. Don’t get me wrong I love the sun and heat, but after a few days it did get more intense.

Our breakfast came out fairly quickly. The fruit and yogurt was perfect for me; light and refreshing. My husband enjoyed his meal as well. While we were finishing up, we got a message from Julie inviting us over their house again. I was so excited because we had so much fun the other day,  plus the place they were staying at is beautiful.

When we were done with our breakfast we walked back to the Gardens, but first stopped at the liquor store to get some Miller Lite for the pool. We had to go back to our room to change into our suits and grab some towels. We walked back out onto Simonton down to Fleming.

We walked in and into the backyard area of the house. Julie was finishing some work while Brent was stringing his guitar. He was going to join Caffeine Carl and the band that night. We were all super excited. Then he told me that Zack was playing. I kept thinking Just George was going to play (and I think he’s good don’t get me wrong) but obviously I would rather see Zack. I guess George was out of town on vacation so Zack was on for the night. So then I was even more happy about that night.

We spent the afternoon again in their pool. We had a nice time just talking and enjoying each other’s company. 

We were thinking about either grilling something at the house or go out to dinner. Then we figured we would just eat at the Tuna since they wanted to go to the Tuna earlier so Brent could set up. We decided that 7:30pm would be a good time to have dinner. We thanked them again for their hospitality and walked back to the Gardens to get ready for dinner.

After a refreshing shower we had time to have drink at the Gardens Bar. Phil was bartending and he always has stories to tell. I tried to wear a hat that night but it was too warm. We told Phil about how Brent was playing with the band at the Tuna that night and he should check it out. Phil knows Brent and Julie as well since they also stay at the Gardens a lot.

It was nearing 7:30pm so we said goodbye to Phil and he said he would stop by the Tuna later. We walked down Duval and turned down Charles St.

We walked in and sat at one of the tables near the stage. There was a band that was still playing from the 5:00pm slot called the Casey Clark band. 

They were quite entertaining, especially when they played “I am a man of constant sorrow”. Not before long Brent and Julie showed up. We ordered a couple of drinks and looked over the menu. They wound up having the sesame tuna steak and my husband and I ordered the blackened mahi mahi over a caesar salad. 

The server brought out our order and there was only one caesar salad. I gave it to my husband thinking mine was arriving shorty, but it never did. I asked the server and she thought I only ordered one but it wasn’t a problem. The salad that my husband was such a large portion that we wound up sharing it.  We were finishing up dinner when we saw Carl, Zack and the rest of the band show up. 

Brent went on stage to set up his guitar.

When he was all set up he sat back down with us. The game plan was the band was going to open up with a few songs and then Brent would come on stage, and that’s exactly how it went.

When it was time for Brent to come on stage Carl introduced him. Within minutes Carl and Brent started to go back and forth playing. It was so impressive to see Brent finally play. Everyone in the band was killing it. It was so much fun, While we were watching them another musician we know John LaMere showed up.

He said he was watching the Tuna cam but had to come down in person to watch it for himself. Then even Phil, the bartender from the Gardens showed up. 

You can check out some of the videos I took here and here

We were all taking pictures and enjoyed every minute and Brent wound up playing the rest of the night with the band. It truly was a memorable night. 

When the band ended, we talked about the show before finally exiting the Tuna. Brent and Julie walked back with us since their house rental is close to the Gardens. We kept talking about what a great night it was. So great that I wanted to see if they wanted to have breakfast with us. We all agreed to meet at Bagatelle the next morning (later morning).

We made back to the Gardens and went to sleep.

Friday – Last Full Day 7/8/22

I think I woke up with my ears still ringing. I did have a scratchy voice too probably from screaming the night before. We both freshened up and walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen. The line again wasn’t too long again, so we were able to get our coffee without being late meeting Brent and Julie.

We were walking down Duval with our coffee in hand when a group of ladies (most likely from the cruise ship that was docked) asked if we were locals. For some reason that made me smile. My husband told them we weren’t but we have been coming down so many times so we mine as well be. They asked us where the best place for a fried fish sandwich. Immediately we both thought of B.O..’s Fish Wagon. We told them where it was located and they were very appreciative.

It was just about 9:45am when we made it to Bagatelle. Julie texted us that they got a table on the 2nd floor outside. We walked up the stairs and there they were. It was a nice table over looking Duval. I don’t think we have ever sat on the 2nd floor so it was a nice change. 

We wound up talking about the night before as we enjoyed another very good breakfast at Bagatelle. I was starting to get a little sad knowing we were leaving the next day, but I knew that I should enjoy the last full day we had in Key West.

Since it was our last day, we walked back over to the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar to see if Ramsey (who bartends there was working). I kind of remembered that she worked on Fridays. We walked in and sure enough she was. We hadn’t run into her all week so it was nice to talk to her for a few. 

It was then time to motivate ourselves and get back to the Gardens so that we could pack up most of our things so we didn’t have to worry about it the next day, even though we had a later flight. 

I also had laundry done mid-week that was dropped off the day before so that had to be packed up as well. We walked back and again it was another hot day. We saw Phil was already at the Gardens bar as we walked by and told him we would stop by for a drink after we packed our things.

There wasn’t too much to pack up so it didn’t take us that long. We walked back down to the bar and ordered a couple of drinks. Then I saw the clock on the wall and realized that it was almost time for me to check-in for our flight the next day. It wound up being perfect so I could use the WiFi there and have no issues with my phone. However for some reason during our stay the WiFi was hit or miss everywhere we went that had it. So defaulting to 5G wound up working better. I was able to check us in which is always a relief. After hearing all these travel nightmares and cancellations I was still a little on edge. The United App still said our flight was on time.

My husband started talking to one of the guests staying there, Dmitry several nights ago. I think they even had shots together the other night? He was from Russia and what a hoot. Anyway he was sitting at the bar too so again time got away from us a little. I did want to catch the end of Zack’s show at Willie T’s since again it was our last night. He was also playing at the Tuna that night, but wasn’t very confident in myself that I would make it (it was a long week).

Once my husband settled up the bill with Phil we walked down to Willie T’s. Thankfully once again we found a table in the shade by the fan – the same table as the other day. We enjoyed listened to his last set and I was able to get a nice photo of one of his new banners (courtesy of yours truly). 

We wound up staying until the end and while Zack was packing up we noticed some sort of commotion down the side street where Mary Ellen’s  is located. There were a couple of police cars which you normally don’t see in Key West.

It turned out there was a guy that was knocking down bikes. We weren’t sure if alcohol was involved but my guess would be yes. After witnessing that debacle we said good bye to Zack and of course another photo.

I wanted to stay and catch part of John LaMere’s set, but my husband heard from Brent and Julie that they were having a bite at Fogarty’s. So we walked down Duval and I was thinking Fogarty’s? I have never been there besides maybe for a quick drink years ago.

We walked up to the restaurant and could Brent and Julie seated right there near the sidewalk. It was surprisingly a nice little table with great people watching since you are literally right there on the side of Duval. 

I didn’t think I was hungry until I looked at the menu. The fish tacos caught my eye but then I saw the mahi sandwich. I was in the mood for bad for you french fries so I decided to go with that. My husband ordered his typical go to, a burger and Brent and Julie order a chicken caesar and the ahi tuna.

It was nice to talk again while we waited for our meals. The food came out promptly and everything was really good. I had no idea. I know it wasn’t a linen napkins type of dinner, but hey if you are in the mood for a burger or a fish sandwich I wouldn’t hesitate to return. You can read my review here

After dinner, Julie wanted to check out this musician that was playing at Hank’s. I believe his name was Myles Mancuso. We walked down to Hanks and there were a few people sitting outside. Myles was already playing so we sat at a table outside. I ordered this drink that had watermelon, cucumber and vodka. It was so delicious. Everyone else wound up switching their drink orders to what I had besides Julie. 

When Myles went on break he came over and Julie introduced us. He seemed like a very pleasant fellow.

While we were enjoying the music once again, I started feeling tired and not well. I came to the point where I couldn’t drink anymore. I wanted to make it to the Tuna to see Zack play for our last night, but I just couldn’t do it. I told everyone how I was feeling and they totally understood. 

I even told my husband if he wanted to stay out I could walk back to the Gardens myself, but he was getting tired too. We mentioned to Brent and Julie that our flight wasn’t until 3:45pm the next day so if they were around we would be at the Gardens. We said our goodbyes and walked back to the Gardens. Phil was still working the bar at the Gardens so we sat down for one. I tried drinking a glass of wine but it wasn’t happening. I wound up going up to our room while my husband stayed up talking to Phil.

Saturday – Time to Go 7/9/22

Due to the fact that our flight wasn’t until 3:45pm we were able to sleep in. I think that is really the only plus side of a later flight. The negatives are you are prone to delays and I personally just want to get home when it is time to leave. I start to think about all the things I have to do once I get home (clean the house, unpack, laundry, etc.).

The day before when we saw Zack we made plans to have our last breakfast at Sarabeth’s with Kai. It has sort of become a tradition if you will. We were in no hurry so we agreed to meet around 9:45am. I was also able to get us a later check out at the Gardens. Instead of checking out at 11:00am we were able to stay in our room until 1:00pm.

Once we got ready we grabbed a cup of coffee at the Gardens. It was a bit later in the morning and figured that Cuban Coffee Queen would have a line. We walked down Simonton to Sarabeth’s. When Zack and Kai showed up we opted for a table inside. It was already starting to get hot and the cold air conditioning inside was everyone’s preference.

It was a nice breakfast as usual at Sarabeth’s. The waiter that we usually get is always extra enthusiastic which I find very comical. After breakfast we said our goodbye’s and walked back to the Gardens. We gathered all our things so we were ready to go. My husband got in touch with the taxi driver Jennifer who picked us up at the airport. We agreed the best time would be around 2:15pm. 

Everything was set and it was about that time to check out of our room. We brought our luggage down and left inside near the wine gallery room there at the Gardens. (Phil the bartender mentioned to us to leave it there). I gave our keys back to the front desk. 

We took a couple seats at the Gardens bar for one last time and ordered a drink. The family we met from Long Island were also there. They were flying back around the same time as us, but to LaGuardia.  We were all feeing the sadness of leaving and already planning our return.

Then Brent and Julie showed up to say goodbye. I wasn’t sure if they were going to show up but they did. It was a nice surprise.  I get watching the clock and it was finally 2:15pm so we said goodbye to them and of course Phil. 

We walked out onto Angela St. and our taxi was waiting. Jennifer gave us a warm hello and soon we were on our way to the airport. On the way I was showing my husband the route I ran for the 5K. It seemed a lot farther then when I initially ran it.

Jennifer dropped us off and we walked in to go through TSA. To our surprise it was empty. I think it took maybe several minutes to get through security? When we took the escalator down to the lower level we began to see all the people waiting. That’s what we were expecting! Luckily we were able to find a table to stand at near the food and beverage part of the airport. While we were waiting I saw Lynn, the lady from Long Island. Thankfully her flight was leaving on time and so was ours. I wished her safe travels.

We walked over when the announcement was made that our United flight was going to begin boarding. While we were standing at the gate we noticed a gentlemen was at the counter talking to the ticket agent. Apparently he wasn’t able to check-in for his flight due to some issue he had with the app. Also he was supposed to be in first class, but first class wasn’t available. He was refusing to sit in coach but they said they would give him a refund. Then to add to the situation, the only seats left were given to some people who was on standby. While the ticket agent was trying to figure out what to do, we started to board. Once we were all on board there was still something not right. About 20 minutes or so passed and finally they told the people who were on standby to leave the plane so the guy and his partner could get on the plane.

The debacle was finally over and the flight attendant closed the door. Then the captain came on the intercom and announced that there was a bad storm in the South Carolina area causing us take a different route to avoid it. So instead of a 2 and 1/2 hour flight it was going to be a 3 hours and 40 minute flight, because we wound up flying over the Gulf and then turned northeast.

We finally landed around 8:00pm instead of 6:30pm. Since we arrived late, our plane had nowhere to go. The gate we were supposed to go to, still had a plane that had to depart. So we just waited and waited on the tarmac for about 40 minutes. Finally we were able to get to our gate. The only thing positive about the entire situation was I had never seen such a beautiful sunset like I did that night. 

Once we got to the gate I was able to get in touch with our car driver. Eventually we made it home around  9:30pm or so. I was glad to be home but decided to wait until the next day before I unpack and went to sleep.

Key West continues to be a place near and dear to my heart. I love how we meet people along the way – some you may never see again, some you will and some become friends, even great friends.

Key West will always be my happy place filled with great memories and friends. Thanks again for reading my blog….. until next time!